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Brain-Scan Pattern Software Could Help In Stroke

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Pattern-recognition computer software analysis of CT brain scans may help flag ischemic stroke patients who should not be given clot-busting drugs, according to a new study. But the technology needs a lot of work before it’s ready for clinical use. For one thing, it takes about a half hour to process each scan.

An article about the study was published online March 30 in NeuroImage: Clinical. Researchers at Imperial College London developed the software. It’s similar to that used by airport security and passport control agents to flag suspicious travelers.

Senior author Paul Bentley, PhD, clinical senior lecturer in the college’s Division of Brain Sciences, was optimistic about the study’s results but cautious:

Our new study is a pilot, but it suggests that ultimately doctors might be able to use our pattern-recognition software, alongside existing methods, in order to make more accurate assessments about who is most at risk and treat them accordingly.

Dr. Bentley was quoted in a college news release.

The researchers did a retrospective analysis of CT brain scans from 116 patients who had suffered ischemic strokes and had been given clot-busting drugs at Charing Cross Hospital in London. Sixteen of those patients had later developed serious bleeding in the brain. The researchers used the scans to train the software to recognize brain patterns that might indicate risk of bleeding, which the drugs can exacerbate. Three neuroradiologists who did not know the patient outcomes also read the scans.

The computer beat the radiologists. It predicted bleeding with 74 percent accuracy. The radiologists were right 63 percent of the time.

Unfortunately, the computer took way too long for it to have any practical value. The researchers are working on speeding it up. “We are now planning to carry out a much larger study to more fully assess its potential,” Dr. Bentley said.

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An algorithm involving ultrasound works well for excluding a diagnosis of deep venous thrombosis in the upper extremities, a new study finds. For details, see our Facebook page.

Related CME seminar (up to 20 AMA PRA Category 1 credits): Emergency Radiology

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